Education system in Malaysia has been an issue which is highly discussed and debated at all levels. With the new government in place, this issue has never been quiet and issues kept arise in the media and conversations.
The different types of schools in Malaysia which contrast majorly in the language subjects, sees an obvious difference in enrolment in terms of ethnic. Most of the Malays will send their children to national schools, while most Chinese and Indians will send theirs to vernacular schools.
While the fate of vernacular schools is a catch-22 situation, there are many other steps that we can take to improve our education system in Malaysia, regardless of which type of schools.
The new Education Minister of Malaysia, Dr Maszlee Malik has created quite a hype in the first few months of ‘Malaysia Baru’ with his controversial decisions from the ministry that he leads.
The priorities of the Minister has been a question to many Malaysians.
The changing of the colour of the students’ shoes and socks from white to black has been questioned by many. The basis is that students might save some time in washing their shoes, but I believe that a shoe, no matter which colour it is, still needs to be washed. In fact, by changing this, many poor families might need to fork out some funds to buy new shoes and socks which they may use for other necessities of their family.
The introduction of swimming lessons to schools is another decision that has created conversations among Malaysians. Although swimming lessons may be beneficial to students, I do not see it as a priority that the Education Ministry has to focus on.
And a few days ago, the Minister proposed to include the 1MDB issue in the syllabus of the history subject in schools. He stated in the Parliament that ‘he will make sure 1MDB and how some leaders robbed the nation will be included in the history books’.
It is very clear that the 1MDB case is still under trial in the court, and there has been no outcome of the trials yet. Does that mean that the Education Minister has the right to play the role of a judge or does that mean the Minister can foresee the future? Or does the Minister mix politics into education?
If we were to discuss the education syllabus, I think the Education Ministry should seriously consider including political education in the secondary school syllabus. Allow the teenagers to learn about politics and elections. With the high participation of young people in politics as seen in the previous general elections, the government should increase political knowledge in them. It is of high concern, when many could not differentiate between federal, state and local government; between Member of Parliament and State Assemblyman; between one political party to another. If some of them are voting, but do not know of this basic political knowledge, how can we expect them to make a right decision at the ballot box? And furthermore, the government is considering reducing the voting age limit to 18 years old. It is certainly welcomed, but they must be exposed to the political knowledge and prepare them for the general elections.
My friends who are teachers have always been complaining about the high workload of administrative work that they have to bear. This has deprived them of the time to focus on teaching works. I think the Education Ministry has to put more concern on this as well, as many parents have raised their views on the teaching quality of the education workforce.
Unity and harmony has always been built from the foundation of education; the mentality of the young people are forged. And whom do they mix with when they are young. There is one thing that Dr Maszlee has announced which is worthy of praise though. He has called for more cross-cultural activities between national, religious and vernacular schools, such as exchange programmes, sports and cultural performances. It was a continuous idea from the Malaysian Education Blueprint launched in 2013 by his predecessor though.
As people know that children and the young group learn far easier than an adult, schools play an important role in cultivating a harmonious community among different groups of races. If we can build a harmonious mentality from a young age, whether we ratify ICERD or not would not be an issue anymore.
The Education system in Malaysia is sometimes controversial and at times sensitive when it touches about races; but it is indeed an important topic that we should discuss constructively.